Giving priority to the sovereignty of the state

Giving priority to the sovereignty of the state

by Thomas Kaiser

This year Switzerland and all inhabitants of this country are facing a central question: Do we want to be “a nation of true brothers, never part in danger or in death! We swear we will be free, as were our sires, and sooner die than live in slavery!” (Friedrich Schiller: Wilhelm Tell, act II, scene II) Those words, spoken on the Rütli meadow by Pastor Rösselmann, express what is basic and has therefore a generally valid significance. In 1804, Friedrich Schiller wrote this classical drama and thus gave literary form to historical substance. The request of the three forest cantons for freedom and self-determination is in the focus, long before the right of self-determination of the peoples, formulated by US President Woodrow Wilson in his 14-point plan to end the First World War, became a principle of international law. Since Schiller drew upon the Confederates’ tradition of freedom in his work, the play was prohibited by the Nazis. Although the drama was created more than 200 years ago, it hasn’t lost its topicality in terms of content and message. Today as well as in those days country and people are facing the question: Do we want to remain a sovereign and independent state or do we want to become dependent on other countries and their laws?
In a Current Concerns interview last year’s President of the National Council Ruedi Lustenberger clearly expressed that he considered these questions the crucial point of Switzerland’s future (cf. Current Concerns No 31, 31.12.2014). Do we want to be controlled by foreign judges, and accept a supranational jurisdiction in the style of the European Court of Justice in Brussels or the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and literally be subject to the rule of law given by “foreign judges” in future? The result would be the end to direct democracy and the parliament would lose significance, since national legislation would be subjected to supranational regulations. Not just randomly, Daniel Kübler, Professor at the Faculty of Political Science of the University of Zurich, speaks of the era of “post parliamentary democracy”, which is mainly controlled by the executive. The actual sovereign in the democratic system, namely the sovereign people, does not play any political role in such a “democracy”. The legal standards given by Brussels or Strasbourg woud be cast in national law and implemented by the executive. That’s already bitter reality in the EU. In the Federal Republic of Germany, for example, 80 per cent of the laws are decided on in Brussels and waved through by the German “Bundestag”.
Thus the sovereignty of a state has been lost. The parliament which represents the people in a representative democracy and has the legislative authority in the state is deprived of its duty. What is granted by the United Nations Charter, namely the right to self-determination of the peoples, is ignored by politicians with an elitist mindset while not even asking the affected people. Resistance is coming up; new parties are founded in the respective EU countries which aim at a withdrawing from the EU or the Euro. In Austria, a referendum was issued, which requests the country’s withdrawal from the EU. The dissatisfaction of the people is becoming more and more noticeable.
Also Switzerland is affected by the loss of sovereignty. Since the adoption of the Schengen Agreement by the referendum in 2005, there have been over 100 law amendments that were waved through meeting with more or less opposition by the two chambers of the parliament. At that time, nobody mentioned that with the approval of Schengen all the other laws adopted by the EU, had to be taken over, as well.
This year a further decision is on the agenda. What is euphemistically called “clarification of the institutional question” means: What law is to be applied in Switzerland in the future? Who will administer justice, when there are disagreements between Switzerland and the EU?
For the EU this is no question: It is the European Court of Justice. However, for Switzerland this would mean to delegate the judiciary to Brussels. What it takes to change agreements in individual cases, when it comes to considering the Swiss point of view is proven by the quarreling about the mass immigration initiative, which is not accepted by the EU. It threatens Switzerland with consequences. Now at the latest, everyone should have realised how much direct democracy will be possible when subjected to the EU’s thumb.
The year 2015 is an election year in Switzerland. It is true that the election of the two chambers of parliament in contrast to representative democracies plays a less important role in our state, because the people’s rights such as initiative and referendum still offer the possibility for political correction. However, it will be important, whether the majority in the parliament sees a priority in the state’s sovereignty or whether it is increasingly willing to serve the EU or other powerful states. Here we are called upon as citizens. What are we aiming at and where are the representatives of the people, who defend our national sovereignty in the sense of National Councillor Ruedi Lustenberger, defend our federalism, direct democracy and neutrality as irrefutable foundations of our nation? That must be the guiding political principle, if we want to contribute to peace in the world and have stable conditions inside our country. Outside our borders Switzerland is very thoroughly being watched by the friendly nations how it is maintaining its position in the international context and is keeping direct democracy as a model for the future. Favoritism, opportunism and egoism as Schiller shows, lead to oppression and dependency. What we need are upright citizens and citizens who engage in the preservation of our nation and do not submit to foreign powers. This is perceived positively also by the other peoples in the world.     •

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